Grand Prix d’Automne (Grade 1)
GALOP Marin pulled off a remarkable four-timer as France’s autumn jumps season came to its climax at Auteuil last weekend with the staging of four Grade 1 races.
A nine-year-old son of Black Sam Bellamy bred near Thurles by Mark Molloy and Mark Fleming, the Dominique Bressou-trained Galop Marin seems to come to life at this time of year and he got the better of an epic tussle with his old rival, L’Autonomie, by a length and a quarter to lift Saturday’s €350,000 Grand Prix d’Automne for a fourth straight year.
Insodoing he became the winningmost horse in the 93-year history of this three-mile hurdle, a feat all the more remarkable given that since his second victory he has won just twice in 14 starts.
During that two-year period he has suffered no less than eight defeats at the hands of L’Autonomie, beating her only in this very race (twice).
Having shared pace-setting duties, they squared up to each other rounding the home turn but thence went their separate ways, Galop Marin remaining reasonably close to the inside while L’Autonomie, who as usual tended to edge to her right when jumping, taken to the outside rail.
Racing wide apart, the verdict remained in doubt until Galop Marin forged clear in the final 50 yards to hand the odds-on favourite her first defeat of the year.
The Philip Hobbs-trained dual Grade 1 scorer, Thyme Hill, the weekend’s only high profile overseas challenger, reportedly disliked the sticky ground and trailed home 40 lengths adrift in fifth.
Bressou said: “L’Autonmie destroyed us in such a way in the Grande Course de Haies that I couldn’t get my head around it. But for some reason Galop Marin blooms in the late autumn and Morgan [Regairaz] rode a very clever race, refusing to set it up for the mare by giving her a target in front and then keeping away from her in the home straight.”
Prix La Haye Jousselin (Grade 1)
SUNDAY’s highlight, the €520,000 Prix La Haye Jousselin chase, was a less than vintage renewal with only four of its eight runners completing the three-mile–three-and-a-half-furlong course.
It looked set to go the way of the 2019 Grand Steeple-Chase de Paris winner, Carriacou, until the outsider, Poly Grandchamp, suddenly discovered hitherto unknown reserves of class and stamina to battle back past his fellow nine-year-old and score by two and a half lengths, with the disappointing odds-on favourite, Le Berry, well-beaten in third.
Even knowing the result, Poly Grandchamp’s odds of less than 14/1 do not seem particularly generous given that he had won just two of his previous 31 starts and never at above Grade 3 level.
It cannot have been a coincidence that the son of Poliglote was being ridden for the first time by Betrand Lestrade, comfortably the best French-born steeplechase jockey of the current era, and it is difficult to get away from the assumption that Lestrade’s regular ride, the reigning champion Docteur de Ballon, would have been hard to beat if minor injury had not caused him to miss the race.
So the two showpiece events both went the way of geldings carrying the green and blue diamond silks of the Papot family, who are about to pocket their 10th straight French owners’ championship.
Indeed, the two-day meeting was a bonanza for the Papots, who also won two major supporting races and came within a short head of scooping a Grade 1 treble when Sel Jem was touched off by the Authorized filly Let Me Love in a thrilling denouement to the €350,000 Prix Maurice Gillois, a two-and-three-quarter-mile chase for four-year-olds.
This was a heart-warming result as Let Me Love was providing a first top-level success for both his owner-trainer-breeder, William Menuet, who has just two mares alongside 30 horses in training at his rural base near Chemaze in the Mayenne region, and his 35-year-old jockey, Olivier Jouin.
The Menuet/Jouin partnership goes back a long way – the pair teamed up to land the Grand Steeple-Chase de Craon with Let Me Love’s dam, Lady d’Ogenne, more than eight years ago.
Champion trainer François Nicolle, who played the roles of both Goliath and David when saddling L’Autonomie and Poly Grandchamp, landed another Grade 1 when the 20-year-old conditional jockey Gwen Richard (who is male despite his first name) notched his biggest success aboard the Dark Angel gelding Kyrov in the €250,000 Prix Cambaceres, a two-and a-quarter-mile hurdle for three-year-olds.